Few scents are more enticing than those produced by freshly brewed herbal teas. The herbal teas used in aromatherapy contain hundreds of active ingredients. They’re so powerful that just breathing in their aromas can have a major impact on your physical and emotional health.
Herbs contain concentrated oils called essential oils. When you brew a cup of tea, some of them drift upward in the steam. As you breathe the steam, individual scent molecules enter special “docks,” or receptors, in cells throughout your body. This triggers many changes that may benefit your health. The scent of lavender tea, for example, slows nerve impulses, encouraging relaxation. Aromatherapists often use concentrated oils stored in tightly sealed vials. These oils are very effective, but they can also be expensive. Aromatherapeutic teas, on the other hand, are perfectly safe to use at home and can have some impressive benefits.
Approximately 40 different herbs are used in aromatherapy, either singly or in combination. Aromatherapists often put the essential oils in atomizers or special nasal inhalers. Homemade aromatherapy teas, however, may be just as effective and are made in much the same way as other herbal teas. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 to 2 tsp. dried or fresh herb. Let the tea steep 10 minutes, lean over the cup and breathe deeply, letting the steam enter your mouth and nose. The most popular aromatherapy teas have pleasant tastes as well as important healing benefits. These include:
Chamomile. – With its delicate taste and apple-like aroma, chamomile is among the most popular herbal teas. It contains oils that have a sedating effect on the central nervous system. It’s often used to relieve stress and anxiety as well as insomnia. It also aids digestion.
Jasmine. – This fragrant tea has the opposite effect of chamomile. It increases brain waves called beta waves, which are associated with alertness. When feeling fatigued or moody, inhale jasmine tea to perk yourself up.
Eucalyptus. – This is a very popular tea for treating cold and flu symptoms. It contains a chemical called eucalyptol, which helps reduce inflammation in the airways. It also loosens mucus in the chest and sinuses, which relieves congestion and make it easier to breathe.
Rosemary and Sage. – Each of these strong-smelling herbs is reputed to improve memory and stimulate the senses. Rosemary tea is often used for depression. Sage has historically been used for easing grief as well as a mild case of the blues. It’s also a “cooling” herb, which may help relieve hot flashes.
Thyme. – This herb belongs in the medicine chest as well as in the spice-cabinet. It contains two oils, thymol and carvacol, that help relax muscles in the stomach and intestine. Thyme may be helpful when you’re experiencing gas, cramping, or other digestive discomfort and can ease coughs and congestion.
Teas aren’t the only way to get the full benefit of aromatherapeutic herbs. For example:
- Add a drop or two of essential oil to simmering water. Allow the steam to fill the air.
- Put fresh or dried herbs in bath water.
- Put a drop of oil in an atomizer, dilute it with a little water, and mist the air around you.
- Dilute a drop of essential oil with 1 oz. vegetable oil and apply it to the pulse points of your wrists.
Bear in mind it’s fine to use herbal extracts when making aromatherapeutic teas. Just be sure you don’t confuse extracts with essential oils–they’re quite different. Herbal extracts are made for internal use, and many people find them more convenient than dried herbs for making tea. Essential oils, on the other hand, are only meant for external use and can be toxic if taken internally.